The Process of Communicating the Message of Salvation to Unbelievers
“But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” – 1 Peter 3:15
Evangelism is a thread that runs through every program and message of our ministry. It is constantly in our minds. Our heart for the unsaved is a passion that has not faded in two and a half decades of service.
While in college, I believed the proper way to reach people with the Good News was to fear them into the Kingdom. I was a legalistic, insensitive, Bible-bashing Christian. Upon maturing in my faith and discovering God’s grace, I became a person who desires to wait upon the Lord and provide the Christ-like modeling of His truths that transforms a life. I learned the hard way that being an effective witness is not feeling that God is standing over us with a big club, but experiencing His abiding love, grace, peace, comfort, compassion, and forgiveness. Projecting this message is what brings a person to a saving knowledge of His Son.
Throughout the year I’m privileged to share God’s Word with thousands who attend our conferences, retreats, men’s ministry programs, game dinners, family camps, and other events. I regularly remind people that while some are called to be “evangelists” we are all called to do the work of “evangelism” – Matt. 28. Scripture tells us that we should always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks and to give the reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15). If we desire to be heard about our faith we need to project His message with gentleness and respect.
Most believers have a desire to share their faith with others. The problem comes in knowing an acceptable approach. The challenge of knowing what, when, and where to share is usually the major obstacle to witnessing. Many have found that one way to overcome some of these concerns is to study God’s word, look at good examples on how to witness, and attend one of our many workshops and bible studies on evangelism and discipleship. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for not spiritually connecting with others.
Another obstacle to personal evangelism is our impatience. The time it takes for the Holy Spirit to move an unbeliever to a saving faith may be different than our estimate. It is easy to get frustrated when we do not see immediate results. I really struggled with this when I was younger. I wanted to plant the seed, water, fertilize, cultivate, and harvest it all at once! I would become frustrated when people would not automatically get saved the first time they heard the gospel.
Through the years, I have grown to understand that it’s up to God to give “the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). My part is to faithfully sow His Word and look for those who are ripe for harvest. In our day of instant results it is hard for us to be patient and trust God to work in the hearts of people.
It helps me to remember that evangelism is a process. You may be doing a better job with evangelism than you realize. God works through your personality, experience, hobbies, vocation, family and faithfulness to His principles to draw someone into His kingdom. It may be in the form of helping your neighbor with yard work or taking food to a friend after the birth of a child or enjoying a single-parent child on a fishing outing or planning a hunting trip for a group of guys at work.
Our actions and attitudes build communication bridges that allow us to share the gospel when the opportunity presents itself. Seeing evangelism as a process takes the pressure off being a great theologian or orator. We shouldn’t feel guilty if we don’t verbally witness to everyone we meet. But at the same time, we are responsible for building meaningful bridges to the lost. And when the time comes, we are to share verbally what Christ has done in our lives and what He is willing to do in theirs.
It is not unusual to have some bad experiences with personal evangelism. Bad encounters can be so traumatic that they can discourage us to the point of giving up. Sometimes people are easily offended. Maybe it’s because they feel threatened. But having a bad experience is no reason to give up. Women who have difficult deliveries or lose a baby through a miscarriage generally don’t give up. Often they emerge from the situation more determined than ever to bring another child into this world. Like physical birth, spiritual birth is not without its risks. Seeing a man or woman brought into God’s family is no easy undertaking. Some pain and disappointment may be involved.
The Power of Truth:
Jesus said, “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” John 16:21. In other words, the reward is worth the pain. The same is true in the evangelism process. There is a price to be paid for becoming involved in another person’s salvation. But the struggle and disappointments are quickly forgotten when we see those we love birthed into God’s family. There is a joy that can’t be explained. So don’t give up on evangelism. To give up on evangelism is to give up on God. After all, He is the One responsible for saving souls and changing lives. He wants us to be a part of the process.
Billy Graham helps us better understand our calling as disciples: “The Evangelistic Harvest is always urgent. The destiny of men and of nations is always being decided. Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we cannot bear the full responsibility for the next one; but we do have our generation. God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibilities to this age and take advantage of our opportunities.”
Suggestion for Prayer:
Ask God to equip you and give you opportunities to faithfully participate as a harvester for His Kingdom.
As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Go preach, and when necessary use words”.